Dogs are versatile animals. They can be steady and loyal companions, athletes that help us stay in shape or dedicated partners in work or play. With our dogs we can: participate in the pageantry of conformations shows; run in agility trials or ski cross-country; or participate in obedience, tracking or herding trials. These hobbies often have different levels of participation and welcome new participants on a nearly-constant basis.
Sports and Hobbies Involving Dogs
Dog Sports and Games
Hobbyists have a choice of many different dog sports and games, so many that it is impossible to cover them all in a single article. Some sports, such as agility, have been well-known for decades. Others, such as terrier racing are only recently becoming popular outside of dedicated breed enthusiasts. Other sports, such as lure coursing, are opening their doors to hobbyists that own dogs belonging to other than the traditional sighthound breeds. Other dog sports and games include flyball, treibball, dock diving, flying disk retrieving and other events that challenge a dog's innate skills and their training. Schutzhund and ringsport are serious dog sports with a police work or military service flair. While a hobbyist can start on his or her own in many elements of dog sport training, higher levels of training, Schutzhund and ringsport all require formal classes or classes held by advanced members of the sport.
Conformation Dog Shows and Matches
Conformations shows, often known simply as "dog shows," were once used solely to evaluate breeding stock. Today's dog shows attract breeders and pet owners alike. Championship and specialty dog shows only permit pedigreed dogs that meet certain standards to compete. Match shows, which are informal dog shows, have many different entry requirements. Matches held in conjunction with championship or specialty shows are usually practice events for pedigreed puppies or inexperienced dogs. Matches held outside of these shows, however, may allow owners with mixed-breed dogs to compete in various beauty contests or contests intended to reward their unique characteristics. Registries strictly for mixed breed dogs are also forming and holding their own championship shows.
Instinct-based events tap into Dogs' natural (or bred-in) ability to noses to perform certain tasks that originally helped them to survive. Many of the hobbies associated with these instinctive skills are related to jobs these dogs once held: tracking people on foot, chasing rodents through tunnels and herding geese, sheep or cattle mimic the work that breeds were actually developed to do by their originators. Training classes for instinct-based events can be helpful, especially if the hobbyist does not have the land or the livestock needed to train his or her dog.
Formal dog obedience training is no longer dedicated to sits, stays, and figure-eights. Rally obedience is a fast-moving sport in which the handler and dog work as a team as they follow a course laid using signs. These signs provide directions for the dog and handler team to perform certain tasks at the position marked by the sign. Dog freestyle and heelwork to music are forms of dog obedience incorporating elements of dance. Puppies that complete a training class while they are under the age of one year may be eligible for the American Kennel Club's S.T.A.R. Puppy Program.
By Jo Chester
American Kennel Club: A Beginner's Guide to Dog Shows
Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America: Mixed Breed Conformation Regulations
United Kennel Club: Dog Events: Terrier Racing
Puget Sound Dog Sports: Home
American Kennel Club: Getting Started in Rally
American Kennel Club: Welcome to the S.T.A.R. Puppy Program!
American Kennel Club: Getting Started in AKC Events
American Treiball Association: Playing Treiball: The Game
del Paradiso di Cani: Canine Freestyle
North American Flyball Association: About Flyball
About the Author
Jo Chester holds a certificate in pet dog training from Triple Crown Academy for Dog Trainers. She has trained dogs for competition in conformation, Rally and traditional obedience and agility. Chester has two goats, chickens, rabbits, a collie and a pet rat, in addition to several much-loved Toy Fox Terriers.